“A mindfulness journal is an ideal environment in which to “BECOME”. It is a perfect place for you to think, feel, discover, expand, remember, and dream.” – BRAD WILCOX
Meditation practices isn’t tailor-made for all. Some find solace in sounds, in visuals, and some in a creative outlet like writing. At the heart of mindfulness is the concept of “paying attention”. Mindfulness Journals serve just that purpose!
Having a journal and a pen in hand means we can observe, record, and reflect on events and emotions that can quickly go unnoticed in everyday commotion. Subsequently, as we cultivate awareness of every little detail in our life- we can become better equipped at removing that which doesn’t serve us and grow more of that which fulfils us.
How is Journaling a Mindfulness Practice?
Psychologists and thinkers all across the globe tout the revolutionary benefits of making “conscious writing” a daily journaling habit in our lives to improve our mental health and engage in self-discovery.
By journaling as an everyday ritual, we can train the mind to start our days with a clear and well-intentioned mindset and unwind from a chaotic and challenging day to begin afresh with a more positive outlook.
○ Writing for Catharsis: A stress-reducing habit
American social psychologist and sought-after author James W. Pennebaker has written about his research on the benefits of practice of mindfulness journaling in his book – ‘Writing to Heal’. He claims that writing out your thoughts in a personal mindfulness journal can help ‘release major emotional baggage’.
It mainly provides that much-needed catharsis in times of traumatic or emotionally draining past experiences. This, in turn, speeds our mental recovery process and also promotes physical wellness consequently.
Journaling practice has become an indispensable part of the ‘self-care movement’ today. In order to create a better future for ourselves, we must make peace with the past. Mindfulness Journals help with precisely that.
It helps to disentangle past events that may have been upsetting for us and label them as such. Organizing and categorizing events in our mind helps to make sense of them. This also helps in recognizing emotional triggers and learning how to cope with them.
As a result, we have more mental clarity, better sleep, lesser anxiety and overall a fresh, optimistic mindset to start a new day.
○ A tool for self-love and growth
With growing research on how crucial our mind-body connection is to our overall growth, success, and well-being, we’re all seeking ways to incorporate mindfulness exercises like mindful eating, mindful breathing, mindfulness meditation, gratitude, focus, and other such mindfulness exercises as daily practices for a better emotional health and happier life. All of these could serve as mindful prompts in your mindfulness journal.
Just like we make ‘To-Do Lists’ to prevent procrastination and help us organize and achieve our goals- use of mindfulness journals can be used to create a similar to-do list for our mental peace, reflection, relaxation, and love.
It’s like setting a daily routine reminder task-list for self-love. This helps us get into the habit of carving out time for certain things that are imperative to our holistic wellness. Ritualizing this enables us to pay closer attention to our ‘inside story’ for the purpose of living well from the inside out and giving our best to each day.
“With a journal, it’s easy to flip back and forth between the pages as associations and insights pop up. These are insights that an algorithm cannot generalize.”- Cathryn Lavery
All of us are prone to being irresponsible, forgetful, and even prey to redundant anxious thoughts with our fast-paced, stressful lifestyle. mindfulness journal practice can help us make sense of it all. Writing is like talking to ourselves- It supports our inner movement.
In doing so, we validate our thoughts instead of our thoughts validating us. Getting to know ourselves better through this exercise can make us feel like we’re breathing better and easier.
Sometimes sitting down for meditation can seem like a task when our mind won’t go quiet. ‘Giving names’ to our blurry thoughts and emotions on a page can make us feel safer and understood.
It gives us that necessary “pause” to sit back, dissect and analyze the things we’re thinking and feeling. It gets easier then to move forth with a new sense of calmness and restored hope.
○ Mindful Journaling Practice for present moment awareness
One of the greatest thinkers of our time, Jiddu Krishnamurthi, encouraged self-investigation and increased awareness to sharpen mental clarity and deconditioning the mind of all the faulty, crippling notions it accumulates that would cloud coherent thinking and creativity.
His own personal mindfulness journal that was published showed how Krishnamurti used writing as a medium to fully engage in the present moment by acute observation of his surroundings.
There are multiple ways to use your mindfulness journal as an instrument for deep, meditative thinking. Simple exercises like writing our feelings at length on paper, describing each sensation, and discovering where it originates from are wonderful techniques to breed more “conscious awareness”.
You can also simply doodle or sit in nature and draw any object in detail to bring your mind back to the present moment.
○ Re-wiring the brain
As discussed previously, the most impressive benefits gained from keeping a mindfulness journal are an increased ability to examine and process things more effectively. It helps distil the vital information from that which is of little to no use to us and prompts self-observation.
Scientists have repeatedly seen the visible differences in brain activity between participants who own a self-journal and those who don’t.
Just like creative activities like art help people’ release’ and ‘transform’ excessive energy into something constructive, expressive writing also serves as an ‘emotional cleanse’ that pacifies you considerably for more balanced navigation throughout your day.
How to write Mindfulness Journals for Beginners
Let’s be honest- writing by and for yourself can seem a bit daunting and even scary at first! Some might say it looks futile, even as if you’re writing in a mere diary. But practice and visible results over time will be incentive enough for you to make this a part of your daily mindfulness routine.
○ Initial Apprehensions
In the beginning, watching all these trapped emotions of your mind flow out of you can make you feel overwhelmed. Expressive writing from the heart without a filter may render you more vulnerable than you’d like to be.
Always remember that this is a space for you to become aware of yourself, so honesty is key. Initially, it may feel strange writing to yourself, about yourself, and may even be uncomfortable as you unearth things you’ve been avoiding or suppressing.
However, through this discomfort, you will soon discover freedom. There is some beautiful about watching your anger, resentment, and sadness melt away into peace eventually.
○ Mindfulness Journal Prompts: What should I write about?
Your daily writing prompts could range anywhere from your goals, ambitions to your frustrations, setbacks, and even random things you wish to vent about on paper. Keep enough writing space for everything. The aim is to let loose entirely with zero inhibitions.
> Recounting the Day
You can use your mindfulness journal for self-reflection at the end of each day. Like what the Stoics practised, this is a great exercise to review your day and learn from it. By recording and recounting every conversation, action, and even thoughts you had during that day, you can start drawing patterns and consciously make changes to break patterns that don’t serve you.
At the end of the day, you can answer questions in your journal like ‘How could I have been better today?’, ‘Was there a more effective way 0f doing things?’.. so on and so forth.
> Habit Trackers
When it comes to being productive, apart from making task lists, it helps to have habit trackers in your journal that enable you to observe activities where you’re procrastinating the most. These trackers can also be beneficial for mindful way of eating and overall wellbeing by holding you accountable for neglecting any of those areas in your daily life.
You can set everyday targets for each area in your journal and reflect on whichever ones need more work on at the end of each week. Keep in mind that it helps to set smaller, realistic goals with proper intention which are easy to meet.
Our intentions behind the larger intention or goal, when written down daily can act as a major fuel in reaching this end goal.
> Identifying Triggers
Taking a moment to write about your intimate thoughts- the good, the bad and the ugly makes your mindfulness journal become a place for building trust, love, and reassurance within yourself. Sometimes tracing our day back and narrating events that might have evoked varied emotions in us can help us better understand where certain things stemmed from.
Meditating on things such as ‘Why did I react like that?’ or ‘What made me say that when I didn’t mean to?’ can help us dig deeper and trace the source of our behaviour and actions.
In mindfulness journals, we’re not just engaging in surface-level conversation with ourselves -but, infact, generating change in our subconscious mind to create our desired future ultimately.
One can use the power of manifestation through writing down “things they wish to achieve” in their lifetime. A mindfulness journal helps prevent these set goals from seeming vague as you can plan and chart out each of those target goals and contemplate the means to achieve them.
For example- you can categorize this as ‘manifestation for the week, the month, and the current year.’ The logical explanation behind why the mindful practice of your goals has a higher chance of being successful is because it is akin to ‘sowing the seed’ of your dreams and desires by recording them on paper.
Once it’s in front of you, you’re more likely to take action on it and consciously create the right thought or effort in order to grow it into fruition.
Another great mindfulness journal prompt is broadening the horizons of your mind by expanding your practical knowledge. The route to self-discovery demands that we expose ourselves to different experiences, engage in varied hobbies, learn new skills and exercise our mind constantly through learning something new.
If we don’t consciously remind ourselves to go out and seek new opportunities for growth and learning, then it’s almost impossible to prioritize such things in the fast-paced flow of life.
Mindfulness Journaling journey not only helps us make a note of skills that we could learn, but we can also map out the means to incorporate them into our lives.
For example, we can list particular activities we wish to master, like gardening or yoga, followed by ‘how’ to engage in it through workshops, online classes, etc. Lastly, and most importantly, we must also write the ‘why’ or reason behind learning that skill. Having a motive always helps to build proper momentum and maintain the inspiration required to take continual action.
> Gratitude Journaling
Cultivating gratitude habits is key to beginning and ending our day with intention. Sometimes, when we’re caught up with the rush of the world, our own disappointments and failures- it can get challenging to spot the little victories we fail to acknowledge daily.
Whilst releasing negative emotions through journaling is essential, so is recording the positive ones to express gratitude. Many psychologists insist on ending your daily journal entries, no matter how rough, with a positive, encouraging note.
Prompts like ‘What are the three things that made me smile today?, ‘what is something I look forward to this week?’, ‘What makes me feel better when I’m feeling low?’, etc., are ways you can incorporate gratitude thinking into your everyday life through journaling.
Also, always remember to keep space for writing about your ‘breakthroughs’ for that month of the year to measure your growth and improvement.
Re-reading these journal pages of our mindfulness journal enriches our subconscious mind over time by teaching a gratitude habit. It wires our brain to believe that we haven’t suffered defeat and prompts us to see the ‘silver lining’ regardless of the situation we’re in.
It helps to keep in mind that your mindfulness journal is not just a place for you to complain and wallow in self-pity. Ultimately, let it allow and help you move past your disappointments and find solutions to your problems.
The primary purpose is to close your mindfulness journal with a better frame of mind than when you first started.
Daily Journaling for Effective Communication
Mastering communication is perhaps one of the most sought-after skills undoubtedly. This gives us much food for thought. If how we converse with ourselves is not adept and wholesome, how is it possible to extend that to the rest of the world?
○ Stoicism and Self-awareness
The skilful conversation is essential in every walk of life. It promotes a sense of self-awareness, builds self-confidence and better relationships. Many great Stoic philosophers like Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus, and Seneca, were ardent advocates of journaling practice whose writings have luckily survived for us to learn much from.
All these great minds prescribed personal writing: making notes on what they read, discussed, and even wrote down contents of books that influenced them significantly to re-read and absorb them from time to time.
Daily journaling practice was a big part of Stoic Philosophy and was a part of their daily morning and evening rituals. Recording our hectic day on paper can give us time for quiet reflection and even remind us of the wisdom accumulated from the events of that day.
○ Writing prompts for skillful communication
When building conversation skills in oneself, it helps to review every little detail about how we communicate. We can remember conversations we had during the day and take notes in our mindfulness journal on the following:
- how our body posture was during that time
- how much were we really listening
- whether we were being over-confident or reticent
- how well can we take negative feedback from others
- are we more effective in exchanging views and ideas face-to-face or virtually
- how attentive are we, and what do we personally bring to the table
Assessing your skills and behaviour in a safe, non-judgemental space like your mindfulness journal is a great place to start!
Peeling the Onion: Mindfulness journal in outline
Akin to an onion, a mindfulness journal helps us peel the layers of our personality to become brutally honest and raw with ourselves. We often seek others’ advice because we trust their opinion a lot. How about our own opinion?
Sometimes we aren’t even aware of our personal values and opinions on things enough to trust ourselves. By discovering ourselves better, we understand ourselves better. And when we know ourselves better, we’re better equipped to understand other people better.
This is also key to building successful relationships. After having unfiltered conversations with ourselves, we can share with others from a place of more compassion and love and less judgment.
“What happens to us is not as important as the meaning we assign to it.”
This is what your mindfulness journal will help you realize. So pick up a journal and open up your heart to a life filled with more gratitude, joy, honesty, and overall prosperity.